Clarence and Richmond Examiner (NSW) Saturday 25 February, 1911 THE WARATAH INQUIRY;
DECISION OF THE COURT.
LONDON, Thursday. On announcing the decision of the Waratahinquiry on February 23, Mr. Dickinson said the only evidence the Court had was indirect and conflicting. (This is a significant statement. 'Indirect' reflects the sad fact that there was no physical evidence relating to the disappearance of the Waratah. However, conflicting evidence behoves the Court to cross-examine and establish where the truth lies. In my opinion, the Court failed in this regard.)
Owing to the absence of wreckage,the Court was of opinion that theWaratah had capsized during a galeof exceptional violence. It was thefirst, great storm she had encountered. (It was all to easy to relegate the Waratah to the storm of 28, July. Whether it was the first great storm the steamer encountered is debatable. Many vessels, including older, far less sophisticated tramp steamers, endured the storm without mishap.) The Court dismissed the theory that the loss of the vessel was due to an explosion in bunker coal. (On the one hand it stands to reason, because no sounds of explosion were heard either at the Cape Hermes Lighthouse, or by the crew of the Harlow. But does this exclude without a doubt the possibility of bunker explosions - NO)
The Waratah was properly suppliedwith boats and life-saving appliances. The crew was considerably in excessof the Board of Trade requirements,though, early opportunity might be taken to consider whether those requirements were sufficient in the case of large passenger ships. (How can a Court come to the conclusion that there was sufficient crew, and in the same breath question the adequacy in the case of large ships. The crew was either sufficient or it was not!) The Court suggested that a committee be appointed to decide the minimumstability requirements of differenttypes of vessels, including stabilitycurves. (This beggars belief. Steamers circa 1909 crucially depended on stability (curves) requirements for seaworthiness. The fact that this was not 'legislated' and left to the discretion of builders and masters, might explain to some degree why so many mishaps at sea did occur.) Rules for storage of cargo should be framed by builders, as a guidance to ship owners. Discussing Mr. Lund's assurance that CaptainIlbery made no report in regard to the maiden voyage of the Waratah, the Court was unable to understand Captain Ilbery's silence concerning the stability of' the vessel. The action was contrary to the whole practice of ship owners and ship masters to treat this matter with the indifference with which Mr. Lund and Captain Ilbery had treated it. The inference was unfavourable to owners and was greatly strengthened by the correspondence with the builders. (I feel quite angry on Captain Ilbery's behalf. The builders made changes to the loading plan and ballast in December of 1908 as a direct result of the problems during the maiden voyage. There was only one way that the builders could have processed this information: Captain Ilbery MUST have communicated the problems back to London and changes made before embarking on the return inbound voyage. There is something extremely unsavory about the way the Lunds presented facts and cast a shadow over the memory of JE Ilbery - who could never defend himself. Scapegoat comes to mind.) Apparently a difficulty arose during the initial loading of the vessel. The presumption was that the Waratah was tender when she started on her maiden voyage. The Court considered that neither Mr. Lund's account, nor that of Mr. Noel Peck, director of Messrs. Barclay and Curle builders of the Waratah, in regard to the interview on April 23, complete, and added that we can only leave the matter there. (It is quite appalling that the Court left important matters such as this, 'there'. In my opinion they failed in their duty. The purpose of a Court is to get to the bottom of matters.) The Court sharply commented upon Mr. Lund's use of the word "Bluff," regarding his letters to the builders. The evidence showed that there was a difficulty in regard to the tenderness of the Waratah; which was not surmounted, on the outward and homeward voyages. (The issue of tenderness was dealt with before the homeward voyage. Mr. Lund got away with a lot at the hearing. Smoke, mirrors and confusing testimony pushed the Court in the direction of 'perils of the seas'.) The Court pointed out that the tenderness in the upright position did not necessarily involve instability at the large angle of heel. (True enough.) An explanation of the large amount of adverse comment on the Waratah lay in the undoubted tenderness of the vessel during her first voyage and while she was loading. When in such condition it was quite observable that lists could be produced by moderate wind pressures. (Which of course had absolutely nothing to do with the Waratah's condition when she departed Durban, 26 July.)
The Court, regarded the contradictory statements concerning the rolling of the Waratah as fairly accurate evidence of truthful people about phenomena which they did not understand. (To some extent true, but in many respects, patronizing.) The Court discredited the theory that bodies were seen from the Tottenham off the coast of South Africa about ten days after the Waratah sailed from Durban. (They would, wouldn't they? The Court convened one and a half years after the event and frankly, I have the impression, that they wanted the whole debacle and hysteria to simply go away. What was done was done, what was lost, was lost.) update: http://waratahrevisited.blogspot.co.za/2016/06/is-there-alternative-to-poenskop.html